Welcome to part two 5 Things to Know about Travelling Israel, sponsored by Simply Israel. In this portion we cover how to get around Israel. From renting a car to hiring a tour guide. When it comes to seeing Israel, there are plenty of way s to go! Read on to discover just how many options there are!
If you are staying in the big cities (i.e. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa) only, do not rent a car! It is expensive, and traffic is terrible. But most of all, finding parking can become a full-time job (especially in Tel Aviv), and if you are lucky enough to find parking on the street there is a risk your car could be scratched while other cars struggle to fit in. An alternative is renting or even purchasing a bicycle on an extended stay.
If you are only travelling between big cities, we do not advise renting a car for the same reasons above. Traveling between big cities can be done by train or bus. The train is more convenient.
If you do end up having to park in the city, where you can park is determined by the color of the curb.
Red and white markings mean No Parking. Red and yellow designates a bus stop -No Parking.
A wheelchair painted on the road, indicates parking reserved for the disabled. The disabled are given a special parking sticker which is affixed to the front windscreen of their vehicle. Israel strictly enforces this regulations and if your vehicle does not display this sticker, you will be fined and perhaps even towed.
Blue and white sidewalk markings indicate paid parking. On some streets, one side is only available for permit-carrying local residents. Always check the signs at the beginning of the street for any restrictions that apply to non-residents – you may need to ask a passerby to translate as the signs are in Hebrew.
Parking can be paid either at roadside machines, if available, but in most cases you will need to buy a parking card – kartis chanaya – from a kiosk. In Tel Aviv, payment can only be made by electronic “pay to park” systems (Cellopark or Pango). In many cases it’s easier to just pay at a parking lot instead…
If by some miracle you find yourself parked by a curb with no markings at all – it’s your lucky day – you found free parking! But before you do the happy dance on the street, make sure you read all nearby signs for restrictions and other annoyances.
If you are travelling outside of the big cities, such as to the Galilee, the Dead Sea, or the Golan Heights, we do recommend renting a car. These areas are beautiful and there is a lot to see – but public transportation is not very convenient or frequent in these areas, so having a car gives you the flexibility you need.
If you are travelling by car, be aware that English road signs can be misleading. It is easy to get lost in Israel, but on the other hand, Israel is very small, so you won’t be lost for long!
Most Israelis use a social-GPS app called “Waze.” Waze is helpful, especially for avoiding traffic, but it too might make mistakes so just be alert when driving, and hopefully you’ll get where you’re going.
Renting a car
If you wish to rent a car, consider renting from a major company. While some lesser known companies can offer you a great deal, not all of them are reliable. Note that rental companies are closed on weekends, and close early on Fridays (12 PM). The branches at Ben Gurion International Airport are open 24/7, but picking up and/or returning the car there will incur an additional fee of about $28 (one-time charge).
When making your reservations you may want to clarify which car you prefer or size. Even within the range specified there is a wide variety of cars. Requesting the exact type of car ahead of time will help make your rental experience more comfortable. As with any other car rental agency be sure to go over the car carefully for any flaws to be sure you are not charged for something that was already there.
To make your experience less stressful remember that car rental agencies are busy and you may have to wait in line even with a scheduled pick up time. Plan for about 40minutes so you have time pick up the vehicle, go over the details with the agent and ensure that everything in the car is operating as it should be. But most importantly do not forget your passport and valid driver’s liscence. Without these two things you will not be able to pick up your vehicle.
Israeli taxi drivers do not accept credit cards, so if you know you’ll be hailing a cab – make sure you have cash.
Taxis have higher rates during the night and on the weekend, and they may charge an extra fee for suitcases or even opening the trunk.
Always ask the driver to turn on the meter (monay), as prices tend to hike when the driver understands you are not locals. You can also keep the driver honest by learning the fastest route to your destination, or if you have a smart phone – using the Waze app to help him navigate efficiently. You can also negotiate a price to destination before entering the car.
There are two kinds of organized tours in Israel: circular and day tours. A circular tour is like the “Classic Israel 10 Day Tour,” whereas a day trip will leave from a certain place in the morning and return you to that same place in the evening. There are a very large variety of both kinds of organized tours in Israel. What you need to know about them is this:
99% of them are exactly the same.
If you are looking for a unique tour (perhaps you’ve done one of these generic tours before), there are a lot of new and interesting tour providers popping up all over the country (like us!). Shop around and see which ones have designed tours that cater to your interests.
The downside of going with one of the large tour companies, or on one of the generic tours, is that they touch briefly on everything. This is only natural, as they are trying to show you as much as possible in a short amount of time. If what you want is a general overview, then it may be perfect. However, if you’re specifically interested in, for example, adventure, culture, archaeology or how Jewish history relates to Jewish wedding ceremonies (because you are in Israel for a family wedding) – then you’d likely benefit from a private tour guide.
The rate for a private tour guide who is licensed and has use of an official tourism vehicle is about $500-600 USD a day, including the guide, the transport, and gas. If you are wondering what an official tourism vehicle looks like, it is usually a nicely kept luxury van or mini-van.
The rate for a private tour guide without transport is about $300-450 USD a day, and that includes only the cost of the guide.
Additional expenses for both types of guide will include VAT (18%), meals for the guide, their transportation to and from the meeting point, and if the tour group is staying overnight somewhere, the guide’s accommodation. A tip is also expected for the driver and the guide. Appropriate amounts are listed in the section below.
Note that these rates tend to be higher during peak season. If you have been quoted a very high rate (e.g. $900/day), try to bargain, or shop around.
We hope you enjoyed this portion of Things You Might Not Know You Didn’t Know (But Really Should Know) About Travelling in Israel
By Simply, Israel
In our final instalment we will cover how to enjoy a day on the town. Including dining, tipping and more!